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A Very Old Trip Report RSE -LDH  
User currently offlinegemuser From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 6256 posts, RR: 6
Posted (5 years 4 weeks 1 day ago) and read 11543 times:

A Very Old Trip Report Rose Bay-Lord Howe Island

RSE= Sydney Water Airport, Rose Bay; LDH=Lord Howe Island

I left high school at the end of 1970 and started work for the then Department of Civil Aviation in early February 1971. This meant that I was due for holidays in January 1992! My very first holiday by myself!!! So what the big question was where to go? It so happened that a mate of mine, Frank had a sister (Ros) who was working at Pinetrees Guest House on Lord Howe Island, so why not go visit? Lord Howe is a tropical paradise some 400nm north east of Sydney, see the link below for details AND we’d get to fly the Sandringham!!! A quick exchange of letters (which took a couple of weeks, no email or even phones to Lord Howe, SW radio only, then) arrangements were made to stay pretty cheaply in staff quarters.

Next step was to contact Ansett Airlines of NSW (A of NSW) at their main office in Campbell Street Sydney. A of NSW was a subsidiary of Ansett Transport Industries (ATI), Ansett Flying Boat Services was a subsidiary of A of NSW. Although this trip report is about the Lord Howe trip, most of the photos were taken on the 3 charter trips I did with the Aviation Historical Society of Australia (AHSA) because it was dark on the trip over to LDH and I had a better camera by the time of the charters.

Operational Considerations
Flying boat operations are a bit different! They need to take into account water as well as air operations. Also LDH is a very small and isolated island outpost, so the operation is a bit like outback flying in some ways. The Sandinghams used the lagoon on the western side of the island; they were not open ocean flying boats. See:

The lagoon is quite shallow, with large coral heads and the boats can only use it around an hour or so each side of high tide, so arrivals were scheduled around the high tide. This meant that the schedule to Lord Howe was somewhat screwy. Flights would leave RSE at whatever time was necessary to put them at LDH around the daylight high tide. Night take offs and landings were possible at RSE but strictly prohibited at LDH. I seem to remember that night take offs were preferred to night landings, but am not sure, any more.

The sector time was around 3.5 to 4 hours and height was below 10,000 feet, sometime well below (unpressurised remember), depending on weather conditions. Boarding at RSE was usually from a floating jetty directly into the boat, sometimes by launch to the boat moored at a buoy. I never discovered why the two methods were used. At LDH it was always by launch.

The only diversion water airport available was at Smiths Lake, about 300km north of Sydney near the beach resort towns of Foster & Tuncurry. Barrier Reef Airways, later Ansett maintained facilities there from the start of post war flying boat operations in the late 1940s until they ceased in 1974. LDH had a flight service facility, which also doubled as the Met Office. In normal operations flights would only leave RSE if the weather was clear at the island as the normal diversion point was back to RSE. Smiths Lake was strictly an option of last resort as it is quite isolated, even now, let alone in 1972. Fuel was carried for the round trip as fuel was not normally available at LDH.

The Actual Flight
Date: March 1972
Flight No?
EDT: 2:00am
EAT: 6:00 am

The week before Easter 1972 Frank and I were dropped off at RSE by my grandfather about midnight. The small terminal was moderately busy with check in, but with only about 40 pax (don’t remember the exact number) carried on each flight, the single desk served adequately. The terminal was basically just one room with loos at one end, horrible brown/green lino (much favoured by the Australian Government, at the time) on the floors and hard wooden seats in serried ranks. The best bit was that you could sit near the window that looked out over the brightly lit dock and watch the pre departure activity. I don’t even remember a vending machine.

scan0013 by Gemuser, on Flickr

With the cargo loaded and the fuel lighter pulling away the flight was called (literally) by the Purser at about 1:15 am. Considering the hour it was a pretty lively and happy throng (of 30 odd people) who made their way out of the building, along the path and down the gangway onto the pontoon. Boarding was thru L1, the large forward door.

scan0052 byGemuser, on Flickr

We were seated on the left hand side, about half way back in the rear downstairs cabin, 4 abreast! [Unbelievable in contrast to today’s 10 abreast]. Carryon under the seat, no overhead racks. Within a short time everyone was seated and the safety briefing was done before engine start, for reasons which will become obvious!
The engines started with the typical Pratt Wasp roar and conversation became limited to shouting in the ear of the person next to you. We were still tied to the dock, of course, no brakes on a flying boat. Full power and mag drop checks were done, engines to full (I assume) power, lines away and we shot off out of the dock and straight up Sydney Harbour, basically due north. The crash boat flashed passed the window a few seconds later. The noise of the engines was drowned out by the noise of the water rushing passed the hull under our feet. You could feel the boat lift a bit, then stop, we were “on the step” (I was later informed), the water noise decreased somewhat as we continued skimming across the water, to the point where I was becoming worried about Middle Head, how high was it again?

In due course, seconds in fact, hours it seemed, the water noise dropped to zero and we started to climb out. We turned left (W) and crossed the north shore of the harbour, at a perfectly safe height, over what is now part of Sydney Harbour National Park, near Georges Heights and headed back toward the Harbour Bridge, over the Lower North Shore suburbs (incidentally where I now live). We turned left (S) again and ran down passed the bridge, east of the Opera House. Turning left again (E) we flew across the eastern suburbs, slumbering in the night. On reaching the coast the engines were throttled back, so that the noise was merely loud and we turned approximately North East and headed for Lord Howe, and that was the last thing to see out the window until we approached the island.

There was a refreshment service shortly after we left RSE, sandwiches with tea, coffee or juice.

About 3.5 hours later, dawn was struggling up from the depths of the Tasman Sea as we approached the island from the south west. We flew passed the southern end of the island and turned north and followed the east coast passed the mountains, beaches and forests. It was in fact the down wind leg of our circuit. We turned base parallel with the north coast and turned on to final just north of the mountains that guarded the northern end of the lagoon. As we turned I could see the northern half of the lagoon in sunlight and the southern end quite dark in the shadow of Mounts Gower (875 m) and Lidgbird (777 m).

We descended, skimming the tops of the northern hills, onto the lagoon, with a mighty splash, with water spraying up over the wing, the lower deck windows and underside of the wing got a through wash, although it was not rough landing by any means, quite smooth in fact, and rolled (floated?) out to the south.

scan0033 by
Gemuser, on Flickr

After a 180 degree turn, quite fast and a bit exciting, we taxied back to the mooring buoy near the jetty in the northern part of the lagoon, where the Purser soon had us moored to the buoy.

scan0041 by
Gemuser, on Flickr

Shortly after the boat was secure the airline’s launch came along side and stopped outside the large L1 door and disembarking started, strictly as called for by the crew. We were in the second load, I think. A short ride later we were on the jetty being met by Ros and her boss. We waited a short while for the bags to come off, we were then loaded into the guesthouse’s mini bus and the eight or so of us were hauled off to Pinetrees, arriving about 6:30 am (local, GMT +10.5, from memory).

As breakfast was about two hours away we were served tea and toast (and the freshest pineapple juice I’ve ever had!) and given the introductory spiel all guest were given before we were escorted to our rooms to unpack and get ready for breakfast. The whole rhythm of life on the island was geared to the flying boat arrival/departure times so every establishment on the island was ready to deal with guests arriving/departing at any time during daylight hours. In fact in talking to Ros a bit later it turned out she and the cook were up at 4:00 am to get departing guest up and give them a
light breakfast before delivering them to the wharf as we arrived.

Thus started 10 days in paradise!

The Return
The return trip, 10 days later was not as exciting for some reason. The trip to RSE was in VH-BRC and we were seated upstairs. We embarked at about 1:00 pm and were soon ready to go. We taxied to the southern reaches of the lagoon, turned and started our take off run to the north.

scan0006 by Gemuser, on Flickr

The following photos are a series of scenes from the AHSA charter trips which I hope give some idea of what it was like to fly in these magnificent machines.

Some Big Round Engines:

scan0030 by Gemuser, on Flickr

Some Shots of the Cockpit, taken while standing on top the main wing spar:

scan0018 by Gemuser, on Flickr

The Flight Engineer’s Station:
scan0016 by Gemuser, on Flickr

Some Shots taken out thru the Navigators Sighting Dome:

scan0021 by Gemuser, on Flickr

scan0020 by Gemuser, on Flickr

Close up of a Big Round Engine
scan0019 by
Gemuser, on Flickr

The flight back took just over 3.5 hours, arriving at RSE about 4:00 pm. The adventure had come to an end!

The Arrival Back:
scan0026 by Gemuser, on Flickr

scan0012 by Gemuser, on Flickr

Bye Bye Flying Boats:
scan0005 by Gemuser, on Flickr

The Replacement (from the lagoon end):
scan0069 by Gemuser, on Flickr

If any body is interested there are some more photos on by Flickr page at:

Hope this was of some interest


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19 replies: All unread, jump to last
User currently offlineJackbr From Australia, joined Dec 2009, 679 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (5 years 4 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 11518 times:

Thank you very much for posting this Gemuser!

It's fascinating to hear a remarkably detailed account of a form of flying that is now long gone - aided with the wonderful, rare photographs! - well worth the wait!

The thing I found most interesting is the fact that a few miles away at SYD, Boeing 747s were becoming fairly common place by this time, DC-10s etc were appearing and the 707, 727, DC-9, F-27 were all part of daily life at Sydney Airport, yet in Rose Bay A of NSW had these 2 WWII built Flying Boats operating out to a tropical island in the Tasman! Something distinctly romantic about that.

It must have been interesting for the Airlines of New South Wales Hostesses who were endorsed on the F-27 and Sandringhams to have these Flying Boat trips in between the more common Fokker flights around the state - do you know if the Pilots and Purser/Hostess would overnight on LDH, or operate the return sector to RSE?

User currently offlineba724 From Australia, joined Nov 2010, 44 posts, RR: 0
Reply 2, posted (5 years 4 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 11492 times:

Fantastic! A wonderful vintage report.I was a great fan of Airlines if NSW and flew on their F27's a few times,once to Casino,the other to Cooma on their popular mystery flights,being just a kid at the time I had to sell a lot of newspapers to afford them!This trip that you went on would have been the icing on the cake,you are so lucky to have been a part of aviation history on those wondrous flying boats..cheers Dave

User currently offlineTN486 From Australia, joined Jul 2008, 1030 posts, RR: 2
Reply 3, posted (5 years 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 11380 times:

Thanks Gemuser, well worth the wait. If it was a normal scheduled service both ways your flight numbers would have been 964 outbound and 963 inbound. I envy your experience, thank you for sharing. My only flight on a NSW instrastate service was either Jan 1 or 2 1966 from SYD to Forster via Taree, on an F27, and I think it was an East West service in those days. If I am correct with that, then I never had the opportunity to fly ANSW, more the pity. Cheers mate.

remember the t shirt "I own an airline"on the front - "qantas" on the back
User currently offlinegemuser From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 6256 posts, RR: 6
Reply 4, posted (5 years 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 11351 times:

Quoting Jackbr (Reply 1):
do you know if the Pilots and Purser/Hostess would overnight on LDH, or operate the return sector to RSE?

Return sectors were the norm. To lay over at LDH was very, very rare. It only happened a few times, all due to unexpected weather. Ansett was very, very, very reluctant to risk the boats overnighting at LDH because the anchorage is very exposed and if you missed the high tide you had to wait 12 hours for the next one and if it was in the dark it was useless anyway and you had to wait a full 24 hours. Also the boats were basically irreplaceable as we got into the late 1960s and 1970s.

Quoting TN486 (Reply 3):
My only flight on a NSW intrastate service was either Jan 1 or 2 1966 from SYD to Forster via Taree, on an F27, and I think it was an East West service in those days.

Yes, that would have been East-West Airlines service. One of the greatest disasters in Australian aviation history when Ansett was allowed to buy East-West.

Thank you Jackbr, ba724 & TN486 for your kind words. It was fun to drag all this up and I made some very suprising finds in my much neglected slide collection  


DC23468910;B72172273373G73873H74374475275376377L77W;A319 320321332333343;BAe146;C402;DHC6;F27;L188;MD80MD85
User currently offlineQuokka From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (5 years 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 11349 times:

Great trip report Gemuser and so different from those normally posted. No obligatory leg-room shot, no AVOD, but a wonderful piece of aviation history. It seems the old birds had quite interesting stories, including being damaged and beached. For VH-BRF see - http://www.aussieairliners.org/shortfb/vh-brf/vhbrf.html and for VH-BRC pictured see - http://www.aussieairliners.org/shortfb/vh-brc/vhbrc.html

User currently offlinePalmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1241 posts, RR: 15
Reply 6, posted (5 years 4 weeks 19 hours ago) and read 11274 times:

Lovely report and some great pics - thanks for posting this report Gemuser. I've always wondered how these services were, as I used to live in the Eastern Suburbs and passed through Rose Bay many times. Fantastic! Palmjet

Eastern - Number One To The Sun
User currently offlineJackbr From Australia, joined Dec 2009, 679 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (5 years 4 weeks 18 hours ago) and read 11211 times:

How was it decided where the AHSA charters would fly to? They would have been very exciting - especially flying into places like Lake Eucumbene, where I should imagine you basically would have disembarked onto a boat dock! (I don't think Eucumbene was ever an actual Flying Boat Port?)

User currently offlinegemuser From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 6256 posts, RR: 6
Reply 8, posted (5 years 4 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 11074 times:

Quoting Jackbr (Reply 7):
How was it decided where the AHSA charters would fly to?

In the early 1970s the then Secretary of the NSW Branch told a monthly meeting that Ansett would only fly the boats to 3 destinations, LDH, Smiths Lake and Eucumbene, as they were the only places that had "appropriate facilities". These "facilities" appear to be a buoy of pretty large size and some launches from the local marina that could be contracted to provide boarding assistance to the boats. There were no dock anywhere except RSE.

Smiths Lake was deemed impracticable as getting contract launches was difficult and expensive, LDH was too far and therefore too expensive for members as well as too difficult & expensive to arrange enough accommodation places. Eucumbene had the launches, a tourist infrastructure and plenty of accommodation. Another advantage was that the Victorian Branch would charter a Pioneer (also an Ansett sub) intercity bus and leave Melbourne Friday night, meet us at Eucumbene on Saturday morning and take the boat for a joy flight over the Snowy, for about an hour, I think. Both parties would then tour the various tourist sight around the area, (by local Pioneer bus, Ansett had an extensive operations in support of the snow fields in the area) meet up on Sat night for a party, the Victorians would head home mid morning on Sunday, we would do something else then head home after lunch.

I don't know when the flying boat charters started but I went on the 1972 & 73 charters. I'm pretty sure there was a 1971 charter and pretty sure there wasn't a 1974 charter as the boats were gone by November when they usually took place.


DC23468910;B72172273373G73873H74374475275376377L77W;A319 320321332333343;BAe146;C402;DHC6;F27;L188;MD80MD85
User currently offlineClassicLover From Ireland, joined Mar 2004, 4947 posts, RR: 22
Reply 9, posted (5 years 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 10849 times:

This was amazing to read!

Thanks very much for sharing - though I think you should have titled the report differently so it would stand out  

Excellent report - and great photos!!

Well done!

I do quite enjoy a spot of flying - more so when it's not in Economy!
User currently offlineMD-90 From United States of America, joined Jan 2000, 8530 posts, RR: 11
Reply 10, posted (5 years 3 weeks 6 days 23 hours ago) and read 10686 times:

Wow, thanks Gemuser! I never even thought about the fact that the tides would impact aircraft ops.

User currently offlinejasewgtn From New Zealand, joined Mar 2000, 828 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (5 years 3 weeks 6 days 20 hours ago) and read 10629 times:

Awesome, just awesome

Thanks for taking the time to put this up!


User currently offlineZKCIF From Lithuania, joined Oct 2010, 458 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (5 years 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 10448 times:

just wow. thank you!

User currently offlineCrimsonNL From Netherlands, joined Dec 2007, 2133 posts, RR: 26
Reply 13, posted (5 years 3 weeks 6 days 7 hours ago) and read 10440 times:

Hi Gemuser, what a fantastic report! Thank you very much for sharing your experience with us!

Best regards,


From AMS to the world!
User currently offlinegemuser From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 6256 posts, RR: 6
Reply 14, posted (5 years 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 9680 times:

My thanks to all of you for your kind comments. It certainly was a very pleasant trip down memory lane for me. If any one has any other questions please feel free to ask.


DC23468910;B72172273373G73873H74374475275376377L77W;A319 320321332333343;BAe146;C402;DHC6;F27;L188;MD80MD85
User currently offlineJackbr From Australia, joined Dec 2009, 679 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (5 years 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 9393 times:

Did the Ansett Flying Boat Cabin Crew wear the standard orange Ansett uniform, or did they have their own specific attire?

User currently offlinegemuser From Australia, joined Nov 2003, 6256 posts, RR: 6
Reply 16, posted (5 years 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 9353 times:

Quoting Jackbr (Reply 15):
Did the Ansett Flying Boat Cabin Crew wear the standard orange Ansett uniform, or did they have their own specific attire?

Jackbr, I really don't remember any specifics, but I'm pretty sure it was the standard Airlines of NSW uniform of the time. Although a separate company, (the old Barrier reef Airways corporate entity), it always looked as if it was part of Airlines of NSW. I suspect that the reason for keeping a separate company was to keep the Operations manuals separate, A of NSW would not have wanted to deal with the water side of the operations.


DC23468910;B72172273373G73873H74374475275376377L77W;A319 320321332333343;BAe146;C402;DHC6;F27;L188;MD80MD85
User currently offlineClassicLover From Ireland, joined Mar 2004, 4947 posts, RR: 22
Reply 17, posted (4 years 11 months 4 weeks 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 8906 times:

Quoting gemuser (Reply 16):
Airlines of NSW

There's a blast from the past - I remember the old Air New South Wales F27s back in the day landing in Sydney   I miss seeing all the oldies like East-West and so on! EW were my first flight back in 1985 on the F28-4000!

I do quite enjoy a spot of flying - more so when it's not in Economy!
User currently offlineakhmad From Netherlands, joined Sep 2005, 2533 posts, RR: 52
Reply 18, posted (4 years 11 months 3 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 8582 times:

March 1972, where have I been? I was not even born yet.

Gemuser, thank you so much for sharing this beautifully romantic journey.


Friends forever
User currently offlineallrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 2757 posts, RR: 5
Reply 19, posted (4 years 11 months 5 days 14 hours ago) and read 8019 times:

I'll add my thanks to all the others Gemuser, for a glimpse at an experience that I am too young to know. Yet another industry/activity that has disappeared (along with a uranium smelter  ) from a harbour almost reduced to residential views and luxury marinas.

I love that shot of the purser in what looks to be a crisp white shirt leaning out of the nose to secure the aircraft to the buoy. Last year after flying QantasLink, who provide the only current scheduled passenger service to Lord Howe, I saw an article for the island in their magazine. Looked like a beautiful place to visit. But the Dash8's can't compare to a flying boat.

I like artificial banana essence!
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